Sunday, 8 January 2017

No cheese, thanks

Yes, thank you for asking; I had a lovely Christmas and, well, I suppose a ‘measured’ new year. You might be thinking that the latter is a veiled reference to measures of alcohol, but, no; the usual attempts at holiday discipline were exercised and I emerged from the obscene consumer driven mire not completely unscathed, but at least missing no limbs.

I read that 2016 was a shoddy year and most folk are keen to put it behind them. Will 2017 be that much better? Well, I’ve just this minute received an email advising me I have been selected for a £350,000 prize, so things are looking up I must say. 

Among the holiday purchases was an old leather chair and cushion. It’s a bit battered but I’ve been on the lookout for one, at the right price, for years.  Now as I sit here in my cast-me-up dressing gown by the hearth, I must say I can see myself morphing in Rowley Birkin, Paul Whitehouses inebriated character from the fast show.  I think I resemble David Stott from Vic Reeves big night out.

Talking of fast shows, yesterday’s Cross Country mud fest at Herrington Park near Sunderland was a hard day out for an old duffer, and running in unseasonably mild temperatures with only shorts, vest and hat for effect (although I have no idea what impression I was trying to affect),  I overdid it. Even with the benefit of a slow pack start, I crept up to 58th place after lap 2, before capitulating in the strength sapping Wearside slop to come in at 101st  from a field of around 550. The last time 50 or so runners got past me was the super-lubricated claggy descent during the 2009 Ben race. Yesterday, I may as well have replaced my 10mm spikes with raisins, or donned a set of clean brushed cotton floral pi-jim-jams and a pair of travel ballerina slippers for the number of mud-watts of power I successfully generated. The only saving grace was a star performance by the young ‘un who won the womens race and the fact that I didn’t have to queue to get out of the park, having undertaken a covert reconnaissance of exit points and available spaces near the gates during a short and unconvincing warm up, before moving the car to the optimum spot.  I didn't need a warm down!

Getting back to the house, I scrubbed the xc shoes and took a scraper to my legs, before having a pre-bath shower, then managing to fall asleep in the bath itself.  My heart rate was still abit up on the usual this morning, so today will be two short runs rather than the longer Sunday run.  But its leftover steak for lunch and something about chips and peas is in the ether.

The current read, Steinbecks Cannery Row is not a thick affair, but coming on the back of Le Carre’s the night manager, I may need something lighter.  I asked Aunt Aggie last night for a recommendation, but she was rather down-beat as she sat among the box of Christmas bobbles and tinsel that are destined for the loft for another year. When I asked why so sad, she felt compelled to admit that she had put a teaspoon in the knife compartment of the cutlery drawer on purpose and was subsequently wracked with guilt.  Her new year resolution is to improve upon her cheese making skills, but we're going to have a sit-down serious chat soon about where she stores the curd and some of the more exotic smells that are coming from behind the kitchen radiator.          

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Seasons End

In 100 years time, social historians will be able to look back to this era and recognise it mainly by the exhausting clich├ęs that are currently doing the rounds. But thankfully, you won't find me indulging in this mindless behaviour. Absolutely not, luvvie; I'm taking this blog to the next level; it'll be a short essay that ticks all the boxes....I can see you stretching slowly, remorselessly for the scalpel. me too...
I've been back in the wars; lets face it, it wouldn't be 2016 unless one vague medical condition followed another. broken ribs, suspected broken wrist, cold, more cold, blah, blah, blah. Poor health and bad luck are the two squires to the 4 horseman in my book. Of course, its all relative, and someone out there will tell me I don't know I'm born, but it sure does cramp your style.

I turned out for the last two Cross Country's, one at South Shields and last week a wee nugget of a course near Hartlepool. But my form has not only deserted me, its been sending me postcards from abroad. On the front are pictures of it sipping pina-coladas, pictures of it on the sun-lounger, pictures of it pouting and showing its tanned bare behind. Training has been very patchy and not helped by an eye infection which the eye doctor told me on Friday might take a few weeks to clear up. She suggested I put gel into my eyes every night; As I have a habit of doing this inadvertently with running gels, aiming for my eye was not going to be a problem. I have to say the eye people were rigorous. I had blue dye, yellow dye, more blue dye and more circling sparkly, bright and coloured lights than a night out with John Travolta. Sandy, cant you see? No drugs supplied, but plenty of soap and water prescribed.

No cycling, but gentle running possible. As a result, todays outing was the Hexham Hobble with the youngster. Ten miles and a steady romp around the moors and some tarmac in rural Northumberland. Around 200 turned out for this pre-crimbo stocking filler and an excellent turn out from the club. A huge display of cakery was on show prior to the start, none of it making any effort to hide its modesty. I waved on the youngster at the halfway mark (she's not getting any postcards from abroad).
It was cool and muddy and that strength sapping sort of a day out. In the last mile I had slowed to a snails pace and had around 6 passed me, but was happy enough trotting into the finish. A quick change and then had to wait for little miss speedy to pick up her 2nd place woucher. Some tea was drunk, some cake was scoffed and a jolly nice event it was too.

Soon, I was back home before you could say 'to be fair'. I was driven to destruction in the chemical repository that doubles as our bathroom looking for soap. There were many products that purported to be something like it, but my search was to no avail, until at last, I came across something that looked like cheese and was from Argyll and smelt like lemon and honey; Whatever it was, I lathered it around the various crevices and have promised myself a trip to Imperial Leathers headquarters to make some sizeable seasonal purchases.

I am going to lie low for the rest of the month and get my act together for the Devils Burden and Forfar Half next year. Not another comeback? yes, its just what the doctor ordered.  As an aside, I like Pina-coladas (and getting caught in the rain.)

Monday, 24 October 2016

Wipe On Wipe Off

The cycling hill climb at Coxhoe in Durham and organised by Houghton was the last of the short season events for me and I delivered a moderate ride over 3 minutes to finish yet again in the bottom half of the field. It only proves that you need to train for an event rather than just rolling up and hoping for the best. The climb was short and not really sufficiently steep to suit me. I think next season I may consider moving to the Alps to improve. The cost of living there might be a factor however.  When I dropped into Geneva last month paying for drinks and dinner was like handing over monopoly money. I didn't even get to put a hotel on a square.

So, with the cycling season over, I reverted to my latest misjudged adventure: Karate.

Saturday morning was like waiting outside the headmasters office. A cold sweat. An unwelcome churning in the gut. I was sure I could find a relevant paragraph in the Book of Revelation describing what was about to unfold as I waited for 3 hours for my debut appearance at 'kumite' (a karate term which broadly means 'individual sparring'). All this turmoil took place at the North of England Karate Championships. I was entered into the individual kumite and the team kumite.  Two minutes a bout.

As an aside, I am a fifty something man of small stature. I am not in the peak of youth. I remember the test card and the tufty club. I remember Fanny's Johnny.

There is, I understand, a condition described as 'small man syndrome'. It can result in small men having a chip o'nt shoulder.  Being small doesn't have to be a syndrome, though. I don't feel the need to prove myself every day. I'm even considered quite tall in Glasgow.

I also spend a considerable time trying to loose weight; or, at least, trying to avoid too much rubbish. Watching the Great British Bake off leaves me cold and not wanting to pick up a rolling pin, unlike Aunt Aggie who likes nothing better than a elegant slice of Prinzregententorte, a workmanlike wedge of parkin or a gobful of rum baba, shoe horned in between her breaks for chanter practice. Don't get me wrong, I love cakes, just that to a runner, they represent the enemy (except at the end of a race or run, when they're your best friend and you've earned it). Mostly, I quite like being the height I am. What I draw from all the above, therefore, is that I'm a good candidate for having sand kicked in my face.

It was pointed out to me by Mrs Mac, an impartial viewer at Saturdays event (and who was struggling to work out what the f*7c was going on), that, at least in boxing, the lightweights fight the other lightweights and the big bruisers stick to their own; not so in this martial art.

My adversary turned out to be a large man in white pyjamas. Perhaps an athletic 16 stoner. He didn't take long to make prompt contact with my eye socket (among other things) shortly after I laid him low with a reverse kick to the abdomen, which the referee advised against.  Swift and merciless justice was bestowed on me for my impertinence. He progressed to the next round. I failed to score any points and bowed my way out of the ring to await my fate in the team event (another 2 minute bout of pain and loathing in Wearside). Later that afternoon I lasted another two minutes without injury, but failed to score any points. I wasn't downbeat however, even as I felt my left eye puffing up and blackening as I shuffled again out of the fighting square. Simply more practice required. That, and some corrective surgery to add another 5 or 6 inches to my spine, arms and legs and a few more cakes. I left the meeting with a feeling of exhaustion and relief. I had a karate hangover yesterday and spent the wet afternoon doing family history. This could be my new calling.

However, the end of the bike season means I get to return to running and I was welcomed at 4pm when I slid back the glass door in the bedroom cupboard by all the jostling from the various pairs of trainers, looking up hopefully and shouting 'me', 'me', 'me', in their little trainer voices.

After 6 miles through the wet and leaf strewn woods, I relaxed back home with a cuppa, a well fingered copy of the Bruce Lee Courier and a couple of Aggies rum babas. What am I like?

Monday, 3 October 2016

Allen Valley Velo Hillclimb 2016

I am still buzzing from yesterdays two stage hill climb event at Allendale. What is there to buzz about? I'm not sure, but me and the youngster beetled over there into the cloud covered dale for a spot of cycle racing. I had been to a wedding reception the night before and crawled into bed at 1:30am the previous evening, so not as 'fresh' as I might have been at 8am on a Sunday morning, albeit that the night before I'd been bouncing around the dance floor to the Cult and Madness like a loon. The first stage is a long 4 miler and suits the time trialist's really. It was Cat's first of this type of event and I had refurbished the Viner. Her seat position is not quite right but I said it shouldn't matter as she needed to be up off the seat throughout, unless, that was, she wasn't trying. She cruised up the first stage, a steady long hill. She said afterwards she thought she should have maybe tried harder, as a rake of folk passed her. She was getting the hang of this racing lark.

I toiled abit on the morning climb and after the first stage 18:03 minutes sat around in 42nd place. At the end of the climb above the mist, I made sure I had a good boak. Nothing like a dry heave with a slight bitter aftertaste of bile from the previous nights pulled pork and Tetleys to freshen up the breath. You wont find that in any of the training manuals.
After tea and cake at Whitfield Village Hall, we cracked on with the 2nd stage, a sharper, shorter affair. A great crowd with flags and cowbells had gathered at the first hairpin and for a second or two it was as near to The Galibier and the Tour as I am ever going to make. As the sun warmed the tarmac, I finished in 7:14 and 38th for the second stage. Ha, so there is hope, I thought.
So no prizes, no autographs, but a right laugh and terrific little event organised by Allen Valley Velo. The next ones at Quarrington Hill in Durham in a fortnight, so best either cut down on the digestives or get myself a doctors prescription; seems to be all the rage at the mo!

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Breaking Bad

Are my running days over? Well, that’s the question on no ones lips.  Things  ‘a la pied’ have gone down the pan since May and I’ve been wracking my tiny mind to work out what the issue is. As times gone by and summer has turned to Autumn (eventually), the penny’s dropped and it was obvious, really, from the start.  The broken ribs thing was a red herring.  It all started, really, early this summer. I had a cerebral Road to Damascus moment early in May.  No, it wasn’t a Bob and Bing film that never made it to the silver screen. Instead, I thought it a good idea to return to Karate. In 1993 there was some unfinished martial arts business. It didn’t bother me. Believe me, there’s plenty of unfinished projects in my life. I’m looking forward to unfinishing many more.  I had, however, a weekend away with some buddies who stuck with it and hearing about their exploits, the spark was re-ignited. I got some new gear and by June was soon getting back into the swing of things. However, all the stretching and reaching, the repetitive dropping into stances and lunging, swinging and all things eastern has tested the elasticity of my left calf beyond its grisly old breaking point and while things are going well in the Dojo, trying to get beyond a 3 mile run these days is near  impossible. Coupled with a trip to the Xray machine man last week for a suspected broken wrist, which who knows how long I’ve been wandering around with, the ability to get out biking is now also a challenge.
Never one to be defeated, I’ve got a couple of hill climbs coming up so theres still something to blog about . It just wouldn’t be Autumn without some uphill buffoonery.  One handed buffoonery. So there you are, consider yourself updated. As soon as I have something interesting to blog about, I will. In the meantime here’s the test card..

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Get aff yer Belgian Buns

Its been five and half weeks since 'ribgate' and, now, its only a dull ache in my psyche. I did manage do keep mobile during the first 4 weeks and am now trying to claw back the lost mileage and dump the uninvited lard. This interim status was marked by an 8 mile hilly time trial run by Blaydon Cycling Club at the weekend. My first bike race of the season. The forecast was pants, but I fancied a run out on the bike so drove to Elsdon where it had begun to rain. There were 80 entrants and I was no.67 which meant I was off at 3.07pm. The start was 6 miles away from H.Q. at the back of Bilsmoor, one of 2 big hills that would require conquering during the event. I got my number from the Bird in the Bush Pub and rode out as the rain intensified, rivulets of water washing down the tarmac. I arrived with 10 minutes to go and had passed riders who had set off earlier going the other way, head down, arse up. Everyone was looking pretty bedraggled.

Soon I was off and rode the Condor. It's got a small gear range, and so this was a deliberate ploy. When you hit the hills, the steep ones, you start looking for easy gears, but that's not the answer. Keep it in a stiff gear and take some grief. Get off the saddle, find the rhythm, get the heart rate up. That's the way to do it.

As it was, I was soaked and with a stiff headwind all the way on this point-to-point it was 34 minutes of grinding. There were one or two folk on the Gibbet, the second hill, but it couldn't have been anymore different that this years 'Tour' where they had to fight their way through the crowds. Finished in 38th place from around 50 or 60 starters, so mustn't grumble. I even passed someone, looking sorrier and going slower than me.

There was a cheery spread afterwards and it'll be better when the pub's been refurbished and the big fire is on and crackling. On the day the weather just continued to deteriorate.

This week, I need to get the miles in and yesterday was a morning 4 miler and an evening 6 miler. All pretty slow I should say.
Sat here, I am musing about what to do today. I have concluded that the biking interferes with the running in terms of my knees and with the Loch Ness marathon looming I'd much prefer to do a Callum rather than a Derek type of run, if you know what I mean. Its only 5 weeks away. I think realistically I will be doing well to get within 3:20.
In the meantime I am working on a 2017 variation of the Gothic cycling jersey, so we'll see if I can get that organised and delivered before next July.
On the lard front, I've got 3kg to lose before Mid-September, so no more Belgian Buns. Smoked Mackerel is taking over my life. Not as cheap as it used to be, either.
It took a while to get through the 'Return of Captain John Emmett', a competent enough novel, and now I'm on with Cormac McCarthy's 'the Road'; Sure to cheer me up that one. Its quite a short novel set in a post apocalyptic world. Then a series of short stories by Alistair McLeod. The Canadian writer's output is right up there with the best stuff. But for now, its coffee time from the cafetiere. Ooh, la di dah (...but no biscuits, right?)

Thursday, 28 July 2016


Strap me down and tickle my elbow with a sausage. Its been a good while since I was last seen striding manfully about this cowering blog. Truth is, I walked off a step onto a slender piece of steel tubing with a nib at the end. The steel didnt move a millimetre. My chest slowly but relentlessly began to cave in and yield. No match. Ouch.
I suppose I should be pleased I wasn't impailed, rather than just incuring the damaged rib(s) I have and am trying to recover from. It was a little bizarre, given that I'd just arranged to run the Coastal Run, as her indoors was crocked. So there's been virtually no exercise over the last two weeks and much contorting as I engineer myself out of bed or try to carry out some rudimentary aspects of my life, like work and sneezing. That said, I am on the mend and should be able to get back out on the bike this weekend for a short ride.
The prospect of a fastish run (or any run) at the Sunderland 5k is water long gone under the bridge. On the plus side, my lower limbs have had a good rest since the Windy Gyle Fell race, where we arrived late and Organiser Phil G shoe horned me and the youngster into the burgeoning field. It was a lovely day for a race as over 100 of us set off, and even though I was 13th in the end in a whirlwind time of 1:10, Fletch was stubbornly ahead of me (as usual) and some upstart called Colin Donnelly. Just can't get the staff!